Monday, March 30, 2009

First Time For Everything

I've been running for awhile now, and although I've had my share of occasional runner's ailments such as blisters, black toenails, chafing, and even a stress fracture; until today I've never experienced the agony of cramping muscles during a run. Today's run was a planned 20 miler to get ready for my 50K a month from now. I incorporated walks into my running, the first two hours I walked one minute out of every 15, and the second two hours I walked one minute out of every 10. Things were going very well, even with the walking breaks I was averaging 11:30 to 11:45 minute miles. Then I got to mile 17. It started feeling like my left hamstring was tightening up a bit, but not enough for me to alter my stride, it felt more like a sore muscle after weight lifting. A mile later, wham! I couldn't run on it any more, it felt like my hamstring was knotted up into a ball and I was reduced to walking the last 2 miles of my 20 mile "run". I've read about other runners cramping up, but for some reason I've been lucky enough to avoid it.

Why did this happen? My theory is that I didn't get enough salt/electrolytes. Previously on runs longer than 3 hours I take a salt thingy from Wendy's halfway into my run. This time I forgot to bring a salt thingy and figured that I would be getting enough sodium from my Powerade and the pretzels I ate. Obviously not. Well, at least I learned a lesson, make sure I have salt thingys along for my long runs.

One good bit of news, tho. Looks like I have conquered my blister problem. My feet really sweat and I've always gotten blisters on runs longer than 15 miles. Today I had no blisters, no hot spots, heck not even any warm spots. For my feet, the solution is a two-pronged approach, magic Foot Potion and Drymax sox.

Next weeks long run is 15 miles, then the week after that the long run is 24 miles or 5 hours, whichever comes first. Less than four weeks until my 50K!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Monster Week

Last weekend I was playing in St George, UT and didn't get a lot of running done, so I ran last week's long run on Monday and then I just finished this week's long run today. So with two long runs logged in the same week my weekly total is.... (drumroll please) .... SEVENTY miles, that's right a big SEVEN and a big OH! In the interest of full disclosure, I must also fess up and tell you that without a long run last week and a couple of missed days, my total for last week was a measly 19.6.

It also looks like I'm slowly getting faster. When I ran 1/4 mile intervals last month, I tried to pyramid at 6.2, 6.4, 6.6, 6.8, 6.6,6.4, and 6.2 mph with 5 minutes at 5.1 mph recovery between each one. I made it to the 6.8 mph interval and maxed out my heartrate and even with 5 minutes at 5.1 mph, my heartrate only came down to 160. This week I planned on doing 6.4, 6.6, 6.8, 7.0, 6.8, 6.6, and 6.4 mph. When I got to the 7.0 interval, I wasn't even up to 160 on my heartrate, so I continued and did the last three intervals at 7.0 mph also. Looks like the long slow distance is paying off.

On the weight loss front, I lost the weight I gained in St George last week plus an extra pound or two and am now only 1.6 pounds from my birthday goal. (The weight lose is probably a factor in my speed increase)

That's it for now, next week is a 20 mile long run.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

I Had WAY Too Much Fun!

As I said, this weekend I enjoyed an all-expense paid trip to the Mini-Indy in St George, Utah. I apologize for this mostly non-running post, but I had way too much fun not to share. We flew into Las Vegas on Thursday and rode vans from there to St George. It was about a two hour drive through gorgeous scenery. But, before we hit the road, we stopped at In-N-Out and I had a double-double animal style (I'm going to let you google that one yourself). Then we continued our drive and checked into our hotel for some chill time before changing for dinner with our sister company team and company head mucky-mucks. I actually took the time to change and go out for a quick three mile run. I was instantly homesick for the runner friendly paths in Utah. Dinner was very good, with actually good wine being served (I was surprised we were served adult beverages, this being Utah and all).

Paved biking/walking/running trail I ran on.

On Friday, we headed out to the practice track to have our go-karts inspected and to practice our pit-stops and get used to driving the cars. The practice track was just a simple oval marked out in a parking lot. I was the fastest driver on our team! That evening we went to the convention center where we had all the teams display their cars, we had another fabulous dinner (complete with chocolate fountain) and finished with the pit-stop competition. A lot of the teams have the same people year over year and so their pit-stops are a work of precision wonderment. We had maybe 15 minutes of practice that day. But, we managed to avoid elimination the first round and our other team made it to the quarter-finals before being eliminated.

Chocolate fountain

Our car next to the winning theme car Animal House

Me decked out in racing uniform and helmet

Parachute jumper bringing in the American flag (we also had an American Idol contestant sing the National Anthem

Saturday was race day. The course was awesome, about a half mile (I'm guessing here) with some tight left and right turns, some uphill and some downhill, some slalom turns, and the obligatory hairpin turn that the fire department continually sprays with water. (This, of course, was the site of numerous collisions and spinouts) We had about 30 minutes to practice on the actual course, and I totally rammed into the tires at the water turn the first time through, it was awesome! After everyone had a chance to drive the car for 2 practice laps, it was time for the race to start. Each car ran four heats of 10 laps, then the top ten from each division (there were two) would race 15 laps for the championship. Although we had fast drivers, we really lost time doing our pit-stops (you have to change a tire and driver at least once each heat). So, even though we didn't make it to the finals, we all had a great time, and cheered our sister company's cars during the finals.

We did win one competition though and that was for best barbeque, our cooks cooked up bbq chicken, prime rib, and brats that delighted the judges.

Judges judging our amazing barbeque

In just a few minutes I'll be heading next door for some celebratory pizza and beer and telling of war stories. Monday, its back on the diet and training for my 50k.

Oh yea, I did manage to squeeze in a 5.6 mile run yesterday after practice and the dinner.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I'm Going to Dieter Hell

The company I work for has an employee recognition program where we have 10 "Star Bucks" (Not to be confused with the trademarked beverage) we can use to recognize fellow employees for going the extra mile. These "Star Bucks" can then be exchanged for merchandise at an online company store. Since they don't do me any good sitting there, I always made sure I gave out my entire allotment every quarter. Unbeknownst to me, the people who give out the most certificates are also rewarded. So it was a surprise to me when I was notified that I would be one of 12 representatives of the company participating in the Mini-Indy held in St George, UT. This is an all expense paid trip, and we get to drive go-carts at dangerously fast speeds against other teams to raise money for the Dixie United Way in St George. I got the itinerary the other day and besides a hotel provided free hot breakfast every morning, we are also getting a dinner with company head honchos tomorrow, lunch compliments of Ruby Tuesday's and a banquet dinner on Friday, BBQ cookoff for lunch and pizza for dinner on Saturday. All this plus a full schedule of activities that will probably keep me from running more than 3-5 miles a day. Too bad I don't have a race on Monday to carb load for.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Decision

I've filled out the entry form and written the check. I'm going to celebrate my 50th birthday by running my first 50K around Lake Waramaug at the Jack Bristol Lake Waramaug Ultra. I have absolutely no time goal. Well, I take that back. This race also includes a 50 mile and 100K option, and my one and only goal is to not be the last person on the course. So as long as I can finish 50K before the slowest 100K runner finishes, I'll meet my goal. For some strange reason I'm not nearly as nervous about preparing for this race as I was in training for my first marathon.

In other news, I ran a 5K race yesterday and placed first in my age group! The Peachtree City Rotary Club runs a series of 5K races at the local elementary schools to promote fitness with the kids and our running club helps out with organizing and volunteering at them. At the running club meeting earlier in the week, we were told that this one was new and they weren't getting a lot of support yet and that it was a good opportunity to get age group awards, and it was. The course was the high school cross country course and I got to use some of my newly found trail running muscles. I ran it in 31:05 which is a recent memory PR and since I was the only one in my age group I got a first place medal.

Training this week went very well, I ran a total of 56 miles and just finished a 16 mile run/walk. I'm getting much better at the run/walk thing. This time my heartrate stayed below 160 the entire time and averaged under 150. The first hour I walked one minute out of every 20, the second hour one minute out of every 15, and the 3rd hour one minute out of every 10. All that walking and I still averaged under my marathon pace. I also did some experimenting with eating on the run. Today I tried Gummi Bears, much better than gels, next week I'm going to try pretzels.

Plans for long runs for the weeks leading up to my 50K are; 18, 15, 20, 15, 24-25 (or 5 hours whichever comes first) and then my taper week.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Thrill in the Hills Half Marathon Race Report

These shoes are evidence that yes, I am now a trail racer.

Yesterday I ran the Thrill in the Hills Half Marathon at Fort Yargo State Park near Winder, GA. It had rained all day the day before and also all night. If you've seen the movie "My Cousin Vinny" you have some idea of how slippery and tenacious red Joja mud can be. (I know the movie was set in Alabama, but the mud here is just as viscous if not more so.)

It was about a 1 1/2 hour drive from my house to the race, so it gave me plenty of time to question my sanity. At times it was raining so hard, I actually had to slow down.

When I arrived at the park the rain had lightened up a bit and I saw that there were hundreds of other crazy people about to get soaking wet and dirty. I tell you, trail runners are hard-core! I picked up my race number, timing chip, tech t-shirt, and goody bag, and went back to my car to stay warm and dry. About 30 minutes prior to the start I put on my foot potion and ventured out. There were porta-potties near the start, but I had read on a blog from last year that there were restrooms on the back side of the registration building, and sure enough, a warm room with flushable toilets and no line! After business was taken care of, I made my way to the starting line, and there was David, the tall guy in back, taking pictures. I introduced myself and he took our picture. Make sure to check out his blog, he always has outstanding race reports.

The next thing I knew the race started and we were off. The first several hundred yards were uphill along a cleared power line so we could get spaced out before hitting the single and double width paths through the woods. As I expected, there was a lot of mud and puddles and my shoes were thoroughly soaked before we had gone a half mile. I was at the back of the pack and there were about 5-6 runners back there with me that traded off the "lead" as we meandered through the park. At one point at about 10 miles the gal ahead of me said that she hoped she was going the right way because we hadn't seen any other runners or trail markings recently. I laughed and told her that if she was on a shortcut to a Pizza Hut, that I would buy us lunch.

Trail running definately uses muscles in different ways. You have to pick your feet up more to avoid tripping over roots. You also find yourself catching yourself from almost tripping or getting stuck in a 6" deep mud puddle. The uphills and downhills were tricky, too. The long gradual ups and downs weren't as bad as the short steep little sections. These tended to be very slippery and on several occasions, I had to hold on to trees to make it up or down sections. Overall it was a good course and distance for a first trail race attempt.

There was one disappointment, however. Only the first 300 finishers got finisher medals. I checked with the timers and the #300 runner had a time that was faster than my road half marathon PR. I had thought the rain would have kept enough runners home to put me in the top 300. Oh well.

After the race, I changed into dry clothes and left my shoes in the trash can at the park. Fortunately I had a retired pair of shoes that I hadn't thrown out yet, and wore those to run in.

As for the aftermath, I am sore in places I haven't been sore before. The good news is that after running almost 3 hours in soaking wet shoes, I didn't get a single blister. I do think I might have overextended my right hip or something, because I have a very sore spot there. It doesn't hurt to walk on it, but it does hurt going down stairs or getting out of my chair. I'll give it a day or two of R.I.C.E. and see if it feels better.

Overall my first trail experience was a fun one, probably more so because of the conditions. I feel that I am a real hard-core trail runner now, and will probably look for another one this year. (Not a trail ultra yet, but maybe a marathon?)

Oh, I just realized I didn't tell you my time. I did it in 2:56. I guess the time was secondary to the experience.